LIMA – Former President Alejandro Toledo was arrested on Tuesday in the United States pursuant to Lima’s request for his extradition on corruption charges, the Peruvian Attorney General’s Office said.
“The former president is making his first appearance before US judicial authorities, as part of the process aimed at securing his return to the country,” the AG Office said on Twitter.
Toledo, 73, has been living in California.
Peru submitted the extradition request to Washington in May 2018, after a judge in Lima found evidence that Toledo took a $20 million bribe from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in exchange for awarding the company a lucrative highway contract during his 2001-2006 presidency.
The Peruvian AG Office said in February that Israeli businessman Josef Maiman had admitted to helping Toledo launder the bribe money from Odebrecht.
On Monday, the press reported that Maiman told prosecutors he received nearly $35 million from Odebrecht to pass along to Toledo, who has always denied any links to corruption and dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.
Maiman has changed his testimony following negotiations with prosecutors, one of Toledo’s attorneys said on Tuesday after learning of his client’s arrest.
“The entire dossier created to request extradition is made of documents that show there has been political persecution,” Heriberto Benitez told Canal N television.
“That persecution against Toledo is proven and will be evaluated at the proper time by the judicial authorities of the United States,” the lawyer said.
Peru’s current president, Martin Vizcarra, said a few months ago that Foley Hoag LLP, the Boston-based law firm representing the AG Office in the US in the Toledo case, had previously helped Panama win the extradition of a former Panamanian president living in the United States.
The charges against Toledo arise from an investigation spurred by a massive settlement that Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, reached in December 2016 with authorities in the US, Brazil and Switzerland.
The companies pleaded guilty and agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges arising out of bid-rigging schemes that began as early as 2001 and involved the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in more than a dozen countries.
Toledo, now a visiting scholar at Stanford University, is just one of a number of Peruvian political heavyweights caught up in the Odebrecht scandal, including presidential successors Alan Garcia, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Garcia shot himself when police came to his home on April 16 to take him into custody on Odebrecht-related charges. The former president later died on the operating table at a Lima hospital.
In May, Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia, were charged with money laundering in connection with the receipt of illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht.
Kuczynski, who served in Toledo’s administration, resigned the presidency in March 2018 over allegations he lied to Congress about more than $782,000 that a financial-consulting business he owned, Miami-based Westfield Capital Ltd., received between 2004 and 2007 from Odebrecht.